"Are you sure this doesn't bother you?"
I continued beating a rhythm on his dashboard. "You asked me that four times, Landon. It's fine, really."
He drew a cigarette out of the package and lit it, and then rolled down the window. It let out the winding smoke, but let in the cold Northern air. I hadn't brought a coat because it was just a trip to McDonald's and I didn't figure I'd need it. We had snuck out of rehearsal because he was angry at someone and wanted to go for a drive. He said he was hungry too, but he was always hungry. Landon was like that. He was always tired or hungry or "dramatized" or his back hurt, but I didn't mind him. After all, he had a car and he was driving me someplace to buy me a burger. He was a nice guy, even if he took things too personally.
He looked over at me and asked me again if I wanted him to put it out. "You think I'm much more fragile than I actually am. Quit worrying about it."
"No, I just always feel guilty, is all."
"Don't," I said. "I'm only a year younger than you." That was something I had wanted to get off my chest for a while-- Landon always had a tendency to be condescending. Once he handed me an old extension cord that we were going to take apart to salvage some of the pieces, and told me not to worry because "There's no electricity left in it." Duh.
The conversation gradually got lost in the noise from the radio. Landon has terrible taste in music, but I sang along to all the pop country songs because we were showing off to each other. I considered asking him for a cigarette, just out of curiosity, but I decided against it.
It was a short drive to McDonald's, and soon we were pulling into the packed parking lot. He turned to me where my feet were propped on the dash. "I want to stay in the car until I finish my cig. Is that okay with you? You can go inside if you want."
I laughed and finally broke out the truth: "Landon, my dad smokes two packs a day. Nothing you can do can bother me." He could tell from my face that I wasn't exaggerating.
He looked at me funny and flicked his ashes out the window. "Wow, that's rough. Is he ok, and stuff?"
"Yeah, yeah, he's fine. But it scared the shit out of me as a kid when he'd wake us all up in the middle of the night, hacking up his lungs. I don't think I'd ever do it."
He nodded, threw his butt in the ashtray, and got out of the car. We laughed and joked and inhaled our cheeseburgers like the acquaintances we were, as if I hadn't said anything. But on the way back to rehearsal, I unbuckled my seat belt before the last turn and almost flew out the window. He laughed and sipped at his milkshake and said "Try waiting until I stop to do that."
"I live on the edge," I replied.
"Yeah, sure you do," he replied with a smile, and we both stepped out of the car.